I read about a young man who had a rebellious streak. He lived wild and hard for a little while. What mattered to him was his own happiness and pleasure. For a season he was away from his family as he engaged in all sorts of immoral activity. Then, one day, he came to his senses. He realized this kind of living was not at all what he had hoped it would be. He was filled with shame and misery. So he decided to go back to his family.
His dad was thrilled he came home. He hugged the young man, put nice clothes on him, gave him some valuable jewelry, and threw a big party in his honor. The dad just wanted to celebrate his son's return.
His brother, on the other hand, did not respond the same way. He was bitter against the young man for his wild living. So bitter, in fact, that he didn't go to the party and he didn't celebrate the return. With a sour heart, he stayed away from the recently returned rebel.
Here we see two different reactions to the same young man. The father showed grace and forgiveness. The brother fumed over the rebel's awful behavior and kept his distance.
As I reflect on that story, I realize I have a choice when it comes to dealing with rebels who fail morally. When they come back to their senses and return to the fold, I can either be like the father or the brother. If I'm like the father, I celebrate their return. And I show them love and grace. If I'm like the brother, I look down my nose at them and hold on to negative thoughts and feelings over what they did wrong. I refuse to be happy about them making things right. And I keep my distance from them.
I hope I can be more like the father when I deal with people who fail. I want to be a grace guy who rejoices when fallen sinners return to the fold. And I hope, with help from above, that I'm not like the brother. Man, I sincerely hope not! I don't want to be the kind of guy that writes people off and tosses them to the curb when they fail. If I am like that, may God forgive me and help me to do better.
The father lifts up. The brother tears down. The father is about grace. The brother is about condemnation. Which one are you most like? The father or the brother?
May God help you and me be like the father when we deal with people who make a real mess of things. May we have a warm heart full of grace for people who fail. That's how God treats us. And that's how we should treat each other.
P.S. If you want to read the story about the rebellious young man for yourself, just click HERE.